Opals: The Kaleidoscope Gem

October is the time for change; the time changes, the temperature changes, and the foliage changes. Like the spectrum of colors seen in the leaves, opals (October’s birthstone) too, reflect a multitude of colors. The opal is known as the national gemstone of Australia because about 90% of opals come from Australia and were accidentally discovered there in 1849. Opals, “the water stone,” are said to help ease the handling of life changes. They do contain water and like a river will flow over rocks while staying on course, opals will keep you on your correct path in life regardless of oncoming obstacles.

Diverse like fingerprints, no two opals are the same. In fact, there are different ways light can refract inside of the opal, and that is called “Play of Color.”  The presence or absence of Play of Color and the color of the stone can determine the type of opal it is. There are many types of opals, but here are the most commonly seen:

Common: These have no play of color and are usually a milky-white color.

White: What most typically think of when they hear opal; play of color visible within a white stone.

Black: Like a white opal, but darker color stone ranging from grey to black.

Fire: Colorful and transparent stone (usually within the warm color spectrum) with little to no play of color.

Boulder: Opals cut with the host rock; look very earthy.

Jelly/Crystal: Transparent stone with play of color.

Precious: A rainbow assortment of play of color with no “dead zones” (areas with no play of color.) These are very rare.

The Play of Color creates a “fire” inside the opal, which are intense flashes of bright colors. It is the most important aspect in the determining the quality of the stone, along with color, transparency, and clarity. Due to the softness of this stone, opals should be protected from rough impact. Also due to the water content in the stone (opals can contain up to 20% water), not only can the stone freeze but it can also craze like porcelain, creating little cracks in the stone due to moisture loss. The best way to prevent an opal from crazing is to keep it away from heat, keeping it away from direct sunlight, and wearing it, as your body’s moisture will re-hydrate the stone.

The play of color is what made Romans believe that opals were the most powerful and precious of all stones because they contained all the colors of every stone. To them, the opal symbolized love and hope. In Europe, the opal represents hope, purity, and truth. Many believe that opals are bad luck, which is actually not the case. In 1829 the novel Anne of Geierstein gave the opal a bad reputation after the main characters breaks her opal and soon after she falls ill and dies. In fact, black opals are actually good luck charms for the Zodiac sign Scorpio and boulder opals are good luck charms for Aries.

Said to increase creativity and imagination while also enhancing positive characteristics, opals are not only perfect for those born in October but also for those who love colorful gems. Although soft and delicate, when worn with care opals are a fantastic investment for everyone. Come see our fantastic opal collection at Tick Tock Jewelers.

Posted on September 29, 2016 .